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Simple Is Good, but Simplifying the Cause of a Problem Is Bad

Simple Is Good, but Simplifying the Cause of a Problem Is Bad

Have you ever noticed we typically attempt to solve problems without fully understanding them? We develop a solution before we actually understand what we are looking at. We never actually solve the problem when this occurs.

We fall into a trap when we overlook problems. Have you ever had an uncomfortable feeling when you just knew what you were doing conflicts with what you know you should be doing? This is called cognitive dissonance and we have all had this feeling. Yet, cognitive dissonance can be a powerful motivator for changing your behavior. Think of the need for exercise. People will find all kinds of excuses to explain away their unhealthy habit of not exercising. Yet, they know they should be doing it. At some point, this uncomfortable feeling may assist them in changing their behavior, but they need a method to help them change.

Developing an Alternative Future

    We must strive to fix problems by analyzing potential causes. This brings to mind a quote from Helen Keller as often times we fail to see what is right in front of us.

    “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”

    One such method we can use to assist us is a futures research method focusing on in-depth analysis of current problems called Causal Layer Analysis (CLA). CLA was developed by Sohail Inayatullah and provides us a way to develop alternative futures. [1] So, what exactly is CLA and how can we use it? To answer this, let’s look at how we can use it to move past assumptions and biases in developing alternative futures for a problem.

    How Causal Layer Analysis Makes the Invisible Visible

    CLA possesses 4 dimensions; where dimensions 1 and 2 are the most visible and dimensions 3 and 4 are deeper (less visible).[2]

    Four Dimensions of CLA

    1. The Litany (day-to-day) future where solutions to problems are typically short term.
    2. Systemic Causes focused on social, economic, and political issues.
    3. The Worldview or the big picture paradigm informing what we think our reality is.
    4. The Myth or Metaphor where the deep unconscious story resides.

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      Let’s take a look at how each dimension is framed, questions to ask for each, and an example of each. [3]

      Dimension 1: Litany

      Here we are defining the problem. This is our unquestioned view of reality. For example, I am a former foster child and active in research to improve the current state of the foster care system. Think of our earlier discussion on cognitive dissonance. Whenever the deep issues in foster care are discussed, people tend to shut down and fail to engage in conversation. Instead, they view the conversation as an attack. They know there has to be a better way (and that the system is failing), yet they stick with the model they are comfortable with.

      Questions to ask in this dimension:

      • What is the issue?
      • How is the issue being reported in the media?
      • What are the known facts?
      • What is widely believed and not questioned?

      Litany example: The foster care system is surrounded with a ‘litany’ of problems. The insane reality of the foster care system can be summed up through these 5 key points:[4]

      • Often times you are stuck in a bad situation (either with your biological family or in foster care). If you fail to “win the lottery” and get adopted by a good family, you could be stuck in a horrific life.
      • Foster parents and the foster care system “may not” (notice how I said “may not”) have a childs best interest in mind.
      • A child can be surrounded and literally changed by bad influences.
      • Kids often disappear into the foster care system. Essentially, they are a life discarded.
      • Children get stuck in a viscous cycle of failure.

      Dimension 2: Systemic Causes

      Here we are looking at the systemic analysis and conducting an audit of the causes to the problem.

      Systemic Causes example: The Kansas foster care system is privatized. Yet, the system is in a state of crisis as more and more children are entering the foster care system. The current solution is to spend more; however, there is a strong positive correlation between spending more and the increased number of children entering foster care. This could be due to the fact that the contract ceases payment to contractors once a child leaves the foster care system. [5] Furthermore, the more children ente ring the system creates a need for more foster parents, for which there is already a shortage.

      Questions to ask in this dimension:

      • What factors are influencing the issue?
      • Who is involved?
      • What are the underlying causes?

      Let’s look at a tool we can use to help us in this dimension.

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      The Futures Wheel

      The futures wheel can assist us in anticipating future issues. This also helps us create new possibilities by seeing the world from an unconnected to a complex connected reality. [6]

      Continuing with our foster care example, let’s look at the current problem and see what the future looks like if we fail to change. Let’s look at the consequences and what is causing the Litany to appear on the “surface” in its current form. Here’s an example of the futures wheel:[7]

        Dimension 3: Worldview

        The Worldview is creating the present reality. Here we are looking at the current paradigms, cultures, and values. This includes the hidden societal values and structures that remain unquestioned. In this deeper layer, we are also looking at the values behind the ‘powers’ or influencers that perpetuate the litany. [8]

        Questions to ask in this dimension:

        • What are the hidden assumptions?
        • Who are the stakeholders?
        • Who has the majority of control over the issue?
        • What are the dominant views and ideologies of the ‘powers’ for this issue?

        Worldview example: There are a large number of stakeholders in the foster care system and they all have different views and ideologies. However, it is apparent that the current foster care paradigm needs shattered. We all recognize the foster care system is failing, yet, the current Worldview is we assume people will always do what is in the best interest of a child.

        Dimension 4: Myth or Metaphor

        Moving to the deepest layer of CLA is the Myth or Metaphor dimension. Here we are looking at the images that come to mind when we think of an issue and the gut or emotional responses the issue evokes.

        Questions to ask in this dimension: 1) What encapsulates the feelings in which this Worldview is grounded? 2) What myths or folk stories come to mind? 3) What metaphors come to mind?

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        Myth or Metaphor example:

        • The Allegory of the Cave presented by Greek philosopher Plato is a perfect comparison to the world of a foster child. This example would take up an entire article in itself. I recommend the following video if you are interested in learning more on this topic: The Cave
        • A child in foster care is like a stray puzzle piece. [9]
        • Foster care is like never-ending rain that turns a river into a raging torrent, sweeping away everything in its path.

        So, what should we do now?

        Create alternative futures with the end in mind

        After you complete your CLA, the next thing you must do is choose a different myth, metaphor, or narrative and create new (alternative) futures moving back up through the same dimensions. Flip the current system or paradigm on its head! Let’s stick with the river metaphor and create a new reality for foster children.

        Foster care is like a never-ending rain that turns a river into a raging torrent, sweeping away everything in its path. Let’s imagine what would happen if a foster child broke the cycle of failure… what if the rain stopped? When the rain finally stops and the flood subsides, the old growth has gone and there’s new fertile land waiting to be farmed.[10]

        To help us imagine this, let’s use a powerful tool called Backcasting.

        Move Backwards From Your Vision to the Present

        Backcasting is a navigational tool we can use to solve difficult or “Wicked” problems. With Backcasting, we start with the end in mind, where multiple paths exist. Another way to think of it is to think of scouting ahead. Let’s see what it looks like and walk through an example. [11]

          Steps in Backcasting

          Step #1: Set the timeframe.

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          Step #2: List how the problem is currently functioning by using your current CLA.

          Step #3: Define possible future states, for which I identified three. Complete a Future Wheel for each of these alternative future states.

          Step #4: Work backwards identifying actions and indicators.

          Step #5: Assess risks and opportunities.

          Backcasting is an extremely powerful tool as we can begin with the desired end state and work backwards uncovering (previously) hidden strategies to produce phenomenal transformation. It’s amazing the potential that exists if we would use these powerful approaches. CLA, Future Wheels, and Backcasting provide us an opportunity to radically improve any problem placed in front of us.

            When developing a solution to a problem, we cannot simply look at a single cause and effect relationship. This is not nearly dynamic enough. If we do this, we will overlook a problem. So, we must learn to find a problems blindspot. Lastly, I am reminded of a famous quote by Friedrich Nietzsche,

            “When you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.”

            Reference

            [1] Libarynth.org: Causal Layered Analysis
            [2] Sohail Inayatullah: Six pillars futures thinking for transformation
            [3] Libarynth.org: Causal Layered Analysis
            [4] Cracked.com: 5 insane realities inside the foster care system
            [5] Medium.com: Profiting from foster care
            [6] Sohail Inayatullah: Six pillars futures thinking for transformation
            [7] Emergent by Design: Futures Wheel
            [8] Sohail Inayatullah: Six pillars futures thinking for transformation
            [9] Prezi.com: The dark side of foster care
            [10] Quora.com: Tom Southern
            [11] Slideshare.net: Backcasting 101

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            Dr. Jamie Schwandt

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            Last Updated on January 13, 2020

            50 Motivational Quotes for Work to Inspire Success

            50 Motivational Quotes for Work to Inspire Success

            Let’s face it – no matter how excited you are about a new project or priority in your life, there will always be days when your motivation lags. Days when – despite all the progress you’ve made in the past – it just sounds easier to sit on the couch playing video games than to buckle down and crank out the work needed to meet your goals.

            In order to be successful, you must be able to motivate yourself past these humps. Whenever you feel your drive and determination lagging, turn to these motivational quotes for work to provide the extra spark of passion needed to keep you on track.

            Quotes about Goal Setting

            Whether you’re still in the planning phases of your business or whether you’re plotting a plan of attack to bring about your long-range vision, setting good goals is a critical part of succeeding in business.

            Check out these quotes for extra inspiration on how to turn your dreams into reality:

            quote-Benjamin-E.-Mays-the-tragedy-in-life-doesnt-lie-in-106113

              “The tragedy in life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.”– Benjamin Mays


              “By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands — your own.”–Mark Victor Hansen


              “Give yourself an even greater challenge than the one you are trying to master and you will develop the powers necessary to overcome the original difficulty.”–William J. Bennett – The Book of Virtues


              “The entrepreneur is essentially a visualizer and actualizer… He can visualize something, and when he visualizes it he sees exactly how to make it happen.”–Robert L. Schwartz

              Quotes about Achieving Excellence in Work

              Once you’ve got your goals together, you’ll need to put in 110% of your effort in order to transform these visions into reality. To increase your motivation to work at a consistently high level, take a look at the following words of wisdom:

              “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”–Aristotle


              “If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.”–Charles R. Swindoll

              Desire is the key to motivation

                “Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal — a commitment to excellence — that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”–Mario Andretti


                “The secret of joy in work is contained in one word – excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.”–Pearl Buck


                “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”–Vince Lombardi

                Quotes about Determination and Persistence

                Since every business or other endeavor is bound to hit some rough patches, it’s often a person’s level of determination and patience that brings about either success or failure. These positive quotes give you an extra boost of encouragement:

                “Enter every activity without giving mental recognition to the possibility of defeat. Concentrate on your strengths, instead of your weaknesses… on your powers, instead of your problems.”–Paul J. Meyer


                “Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.”–Hal Borland


                “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”–Calvin Coolidge

                quote-Thomas-Fuller-an-invincible-determination-can-accomplish-almost-anything-92190

                  “An invincible determination can accomplish almost anything and in this lies the great distinction between great men and little men.”–Thomas Fuller

                  Quotes about Leadership

                  Whether you use it to engage your employees, to encourage teamwork or motivate others to follow your unique way of thinking, leadership is crucial. Take your leadership cues from these renowned leaders’ famous sayings:

                  “The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born — that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.” –Warren G. Bennis


                  “All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.”–John Kenneth Galbraith

                  Leadership is not magnetic personality

                    “Leadership is not magnetic personality — that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not ‘making friends and influencing people’ — that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”–Peter F. Drucker


                    “The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already.”–John Buchan


                    “High sentiments always win in the end. The leaders who offer blood, toil, tears and sweat always get more out of their followers than those who offer safety and a good time. When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic.”–George Orwell

                    Quotes for Success

                    Think of success as a holistic process – one which results from the combination of goal-setting, excellence, patience, determination and leadership you prioritize throughout your career. These highly successful people provide you with an excellent source of motivation:

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                    “Be patient with yourself. Self-growth is tender; it’s holy ground. There’s no greater investment.”–Stephen Covey


                    “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”–Norman Vincent Peale

                    Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.

                      “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”–Winston Churchill


                      “Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.”–John Maxwell


                      “Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success.”– Thomas J. Watson


                      “The great successful men of the world have used their imagination.  They think ahead and create their mental picture in all its details, filling in here, adding a little there, altering this a bit and that a bit, but steadily building – steadily building.”–Robert Collier


                      “It is a paradoxical but profoundly true and important principle of life that the most likely way to reach a goal is to be aiming not at that goal itself but at some more ambitious goal beyond it.”–Arnold Toynbee

                      Sports Quotes for Athletes

                      You don’t need to be a Michael Jordan-caliber athlete to draw inspiration from the following quotes. Even if you’re just a recreational player or someone who’s using sports as a means to get back in shape after long periods of inactivity, the following motivational sports quotes will encourage you:

                      “My attitude is that if you push me towards something that you think is a weakness, then I will turn that perceived weakness into a strength.”–Michael Jordan


                      “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.”–Lance Armstrong

                      Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths.

                        “Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”–Arnold Schwarzenegger


                        “I know what I have to do, and I’m going to do whatever it takes. If I do it, I’ll come out a winner, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else does.”–Florence Griffith Joyner


                        “Every time you stay out late; every time you sleep in; every time you miss a workout; every time you don’t give 100% – You make it that much easier for me to beat you.”–Unknown


                        “If you are hurt, whether in mind or body, don’t nurse your bruises. Get up and light-heartedly, courageously, good temperedly get ready for the next encounter. This is the only way to take life – this is also ‘playing’ the game!”–Emily Post


                        “We must train from the inside out. Using our strengths to attack and nullify any weaknesses. It’s not about denying a weakness may exist but about denying its right to persist.”–Vince McConnell

                        Quotes to Motivate Learning

                        Committing yourself to pursuing knowledge in a single area is a tremendous endeavor – one that often seems overwhelming given the depth and breadth of information that’s available today. Keep the following motivational quotes in mind if you’re learning:

                        “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.”–George Washington Carver

                        quote-William-Arthur-Ward-if-you-can-imagine-it-you-can-36189

                          “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.”–William Arthur Ward


                          “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”– Aristotle


                          “Success is not the key to happiness.Happiness is the key to success.If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”–Albert Schweitzer


                          “Wear your learning, like your watch, in a private pocket: and do not pull it out and strike it, merely to show that you have one.”–Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield


                          “He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.”–Chinese Proverb


                          “Study while others are sleeping; work while others are loafing; prepare while others are playing; and dream while others are wishing.”–William Arthur Ward


                          “Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled ‘This could change your life’.”–Helen Exley


                          “A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.”–Chinese Proverb

                          All-Time Favorite Positive Quotes

                          Finally, whatever your goals are in life, you can’t go wrong by taking the advice of the following famous motivational quotes:

                          “Change your thoughts and you change your world.”–Norman Vincent Peale


                          “Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinion drowned your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”–Steve Jobs


                          “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”–Maria Robinson


                          “Out of clutter, find Simplicity. From discord, find Harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies Opportunity.”–Albert Einstein


                          “Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.”–Lyndon Johnson

                          If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.

                            “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.”–Thomas Edison


                            “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”–Wayne Gretzky


                            “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”–Winston Churchill


                            “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”–Ralph Waldo Emerson

                            Final Thoughts

                            To use these motivational quotes effectively, find the one that speaks to you. Although all of the phrases listed above can be considered “motivational,” only you can decide which one resonates with you most directly.

                            Next, take the quote you’ve settled on and copy it onto small index cards or other pieces of paper that can be stored around your home and workspace.

                            If you’re creative, you can create inspiration boards, signs or other decorative displays featuring your favorite motivational quotes – really, though, the most important thing is that your chosen phrase be accessible in a variety of different places. This will make it easy to access and review whenever you feel your motivation slipping away.

                            More Inspiring Quotes

                            Featured photo credit: Kyle Glenn via unsplash.com

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